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Matthew Ostrowski: The Host

During his summer residency at The Clocktower, artist and composer Matthew Ostrowski is developing a new composition for computer-controlled rotary telephones. Developing robotic control over the bells, he composes an environment based on swarm intelligence and small-world network algorithms, creating a carillon taking maximum advantage of the limited set of sonic options available to a traditional rotary phone.

The completed composition and installation is on view throughout August 2012 in one of the Clocktower's Project Rooms. Visitors are invited to walk or sit among the phones. Recommended listening time is 20 minutes. Free and open to the public Tuesday-Friday from 12-5 p.m.

Hear samples of Ostrowski's work and his conversation with David Weinstein recorded during the residenecy period HERE.

This work is an unending musical work for a carillon of automated telephone bells. Using computer models based on swarm intelligence amongst organisms such as crickets and fireflies, small-world network algorithms, and Markov chains, The Host is both an environmental installation and a duration-based piece of music.

This piece implies an alternative reality in which these obsolete instruments have a sort of atavistic sentience: Not the advanced consciousness of communication devices as we experience them, but a primitive will whose intentions are utterly alien to us, expressed in a language of peals and clicks, a form of intercourse very different than that for which it was originally designed. It is also a formal exploration, exploiting the timbral possibilities of the telephonic carillon, spatial diffusion, and machine intelligence.

Open House Open Studios 7 August 2012

For the Clocktower's August Open House, artist and composer Matthew Ostrowski premieres his unending composition for computer-controlled rotary telephones, and the Ashcan Orchestra performs in anticipation of its opera, "Apollo's Accidental Answer," coming in September. All other galleries, studios, and long-term exhibits are on view as well. Matthew Ostrowski's "The Host" is an installation for an array of computer-controlled rotary telephones. Using swarm intelligence and small-world network algorithms, Ostrowski transforms the phones into a flock of obsolete instruments with an atavistic sentience: Not the advanced consciousness of communication devices as we fantasize them, but a primitive will whose intentions are utterly alien to us, expressed in a language of peals and clicks. The Host aims to unfold the formal object of the telephone by reshaping its familiar sonic and social relations, reconsidering it as orchestra, bedlam, hive, and site of exchange.


On Tues., Nov. 15, 2011 at 6pm the Clocktower screened Matthew Ostrowski's Scarlet(t), a single-channel 90-minute video work, a re-synthesis of the middlebrow Hollywood romance Girl with a Pearl Earring, and a systems-based attempt to isolate the 'latent' content of this popular film. This project uses processes of reduction and filtering, emptying the movie of the superflous adornment of its story, and reducing it to one such signifier. Using a tracking algorithm, Girl with a Pearl Earring is reduced to its most crucial token – Scarlett Johanssen's scarlet lips. The remainder of the image is obscured, leaving only occasional flashes when she is offscreen – the wandering eye searching for its object of desire. The audio of the film is processed likewise, based on the same data used by the tracker, stretching, squeezing and positioning the sonic content of the movie based on the size and location of Scarlett's lips on the screen at any given moment. Extracting this one signifier, Scarlett's famous mouth, wrenches the true subject of the movie – her lips, and their erotic juxtapositions – out of the extravagant context of the costume drama in which it is cushioned. The entire film, both sonically and visually, is thus in some way squeezed through it's primary feature, the point to which our eyes are drawn: the inaccessible eroticism of the star.